APA Pushes to Keep Telehealth Option for Medicare Patients
APA, along with 430 health care and technology organizations, is urging Congressional leaders to address the “telehealth cliff.” If Congress does not act before the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency, Medicare beneficiaries will lose access to virtual care options that were permitted during the pandemic, the organizations wrote in a letter to lawmakers.
Discover The World's MOST COMPREHENSIVE Mental Health Assessment Platform
Efficiently assess your patients for 80+ possible conditions with a single dynamic, intuitive mental health assessment. As low as $12 per patient per year.
“This would have a chilling effect on access to care across the entire U.S. health care system, including on patients that have established relationships with providers virtually, with potentially dire consequences for their health,” the organizations wrote. The organizations are pressing for permanent telehealth reforms, including removing restrictions on its use for mental health services.
The letter also calls on lawmakers to remove arbitrary restrictions on where patients must be located to utilize telehealth services. Prior to the pandemic, Medicare beneficiaries in urban areas were ineligible for most telehealth services, and beneficiaries could not receive telehealth services in their own homes.
Appropriations Bill Would Boost Funding for MH/SUD Programs
APA’s continuous advocacy helped lead to House passage of a “minibus” package that contains significant increases for mental health and substance use (MH/SUD) programs, some at unprecedented levels.
“Importantly, the legislation recognizes the severity of the mental health and substance use challenges our nation is facing and invests significant new resources to meet them,” APA wrote in a statement. Highlights of the package include the following:
50% increase for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to $9.16 billion.
New funds for the federal enforcement of mental health and substance use parity requirements, and significant new resources for research on health disparities and firearm injury/mortality prevention.
An increase of $341 million to support health workforce development.
$2.9 billion in additional funding for veterans’ mental health care, including a $286 million boost for suicide prevention outreach.
$100 million for a pilot program for mental health mobile crisis response in lieu of police.
APA Calls for Required Vaccinations for Health Care Workers
APA teamed up with dozens of health care organizations to call on all health care and long-term-care employers to require their workers get vaccinated against COVID-19. “This is the logical fulfillment of the ethical commitment of all health care workers to put patients as well as residents of long-term-care facilities first and take all steps necessary to ensure their health and well-being,” the organizations wrote in a joint statement of support.
Government data show that 1 in 4 hospital workers who have direct contact with patients had not received a single dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of May. When it comes to staff caring for frail elderly patients, vaccination rates are even lower: 40% of nursing home staff remained unvaccinated as of the end of July, according to CDC data.
Senate Committee Approves APA-Backed Suicide Prevention Bills
In August, a key Senate committee passed two suicide prevention bills supported by APA: S 2425, which would help shore up the 988 hotline, and S 1543, which would provide suicide prevention resources and training to middle and high school students. Both bills passed the House in May. ■
APA’s Government, Policy, and Advocacy Update (September 2021) | Psychiatric News